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A fully non-linear problem on unsteady water waves generated by an impulsively moving obstacle is studied analytically. Our method involves reduction of the Euler equations to the integral-differential system for the wave elevation together with normal and tangential fluid velocities at a free surface. Exact model equations are derived in explicit form in a case where an isolated obstacle is presented by a totally submerged elliptic cylinder. A small-time asymptotic solution is constructed for a cylinder which starts with constant acceleration from rest. It is demonstrated that the leading-order solution terms describe several wave regimes such as the formation of non-stationary splash jets by vertical rising or vertical submersion of the obstacle; the generation of diverging waves is also observed.